Work to live or live to work?

Hamster Wheel


Job satisfaction is an important part of life. It’s also complex, meaning very different things to different people.

Consider the story of the two stonecutters working in a quarry. When asked what they were doing, the first one replied “I’m cutting this stone.” The second replied, “I’m building a cathedral.” (Some versions of this story add a third stonecutter who replies, “I’m earning money to feed my family.”)

Perspective counts.

A 2018 Nielsen survey found that almost three quarters of Canadians were either looking for work or willing to leave their job for another opportunity. Fast-forward a year to 2019, and another survey found that 83 per cent of Canadians said they were satisfied with their job.

Employment is a multi-faceted thing. There are all kinds of jobs, and all kinds of people to do them. The saying “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life” speaks to a pinnacle of sorts: there are people who have managed to align their ‘calling’ or their passion with how they put food on the table.

Not only do different people find job satisfaction in different ways. Different jobs can hold varying levels of job satisfaction for different people.

Michael Steger, PhD, is the Founder and Director of the Center for Meaning and Purpose, and Professor of Psychology at Colorado State University. Dr. Steger developed a work and meaning inventory to gauge the importance of work in people’s lives.

The inventory can gauge factors that influence job satisfaction, such as commitment, level of meaning, motivation, and intent to leave an organization.

Your personal goals can also influence where and how you find job satisfaction. Do you work to live, or live to work? If your primary objective from employment is to be able to enjoy life, you may be able to derive satisfaction from work that others find mundane.

Prospect has a high percentage of cathedral builders. Many of our people get to see first-hand the incredible differences their work makes in the lives of others. As our annual report notes, employment enables a lot of positive life effects, and can make a difference for generations to come.

In the end, employment is really about enabling people to be the best version of themselves, whether that best version occurs on the job, in their personal lives, or across the board.